Joshua Oppenheimer

  • Aired:  08/13/13
  •  | Views: 29,904

Joshua Oppenheimer discusses "The Act of Killing," his documentary about the 1965 Indonesian mass killings. (5:54)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK, MY GUEST

TONIGHT IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE

NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM CALLED "THE

ACT OF KILLING."

>> John: PLEASE WELCOME JOSHUA

OPPENHEIMER.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

JOSHUA, THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE,

COMPLICATED, DEVASTATING

DOCUMENTARY.

IT TOOK ME TWO HOURS TO WATCH

IT, ABOUT THREE DAYS TO GET OVER

IT.

GIVE ME -- GIVE ME -- IN THE

BROADEST POSSIBLE TERMS EXPLAIN

WHAT THIS IS ABOUT AND GET INTO

IT.

>> BASICALLY, IN 1965 THE

INDONESIAN ARMY OVERTHREW THE

DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED

GOVERNMENT, LEFT-LEANING

GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT SUKARNO

AND THEY USED DEATH SQUADS TO

KILL ALL THE OPPONENTS OF THE

NEW REGIME AND SOMEWHERE BETWEEN

HALF A MILLION AND TWO AND A

HALF MILLION PEOPLE WERE KILLED

INLESS THAN A YEAR.

AND THE PEOPLE WHO DID IT HAVE

BASICALLY BEEN IN POWER OR

ENJOYED -- BEEN IN POWER EVER

SINCE AND SO WHEN YOU ASK THEM

ABOUT WHAT THEY DID, INSTEAD OF

ACTING APOLOGETIC ABOUT IT OR

DENYING IT, THEY BOAST ABOUT IT.

SO TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF

THEIR BOASTING, WHY THEY'RE

BOASTING, THE EFFECT, HOW THEY

SEE THEMSELVES, WHAT THIS MEANS

TO THEIR SOCIETY I LET THEM

DRAMATIZE WHAT THEY'VE DONE IN

WHATEVER WAYS THEY WISH TO

UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE ACT

OF KILLING.

>> John: BECAUSE THERE HAS

BEEN NO TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION

IN INDONESIA.

THEY ARE LIVING IN THE WORLD

THAT THEY WERE LIVING IN IN 1965

AROUND THE KILLERS, THERE'S BEEN

NO JUSTICE FOR THEM.

SO I GUESS MY FIRST QUESTION IS

HOW DID YOU DO THIS?

I MEAN, HOW DID YOU GAIN THE

TRUST OF THESE ADMITTED MASS

MURDERERS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN

CONVICTED?

>> WELL, BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN IN

POWER EVER SINCE IT WAS ALL --

ALL ONE HAD TO DO IS GO AND ASK

"WHAT DID YOU DO FOR A LIVING?"

AND TO OUR HORROR THEY WOULD

COME OUT WITH THESE HORRIFIC

STORIES OF MASS KILLING AND TELL

THEM IN FRONT OF THEIR

GRANDCHILDREN, THEIR WIVES,

THEIR CHILDREN, AND WE STARTED

-- I STARTED TO WONDER WHAT -- I

STARTED TO FEEL AS THOUGH I'D

WALKED INTO GERMANY 40 YEARS

AFTER THE HOLOCAUST TO FIND THE

NAZIS STILL IN POWER.

AND I WANTED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT

HAD HAPPENED TO THIS SOCIETY AS

A RESULT OF BUILDING A NORMALITY

ON THE BASIS OF TERROR.

>> John: THE VERY TITLE "THE

ACT OF KILLING" IS DEEPLY

PROFOUND BECAUSE FOR A LOT OF

THESE MEN, AS YOU SEE, IT WAS A

PERFORMANCE, IT WAS AN ACT.

THEY OPENLY SAY THAT THEY WERE

EMULATING MOVIES THAT THEY HAD

SEEN, SOMETIMES THAT THEY HAD

LITERALLY JUST WALKED OUT OF.

>> IN THE CITY WHERE WE MADE THE

FILM, THE ARMY RECRUITED THE

KILLERS FROM THE RANKS OF WHAT

WERE CALLED MOVIE THEATER

GANGSTERS.

THESE WERE GANGSTERS WHO WERE

SELLING MOVIE THEATER TICKETS ON

THE BLACK MARKET, HANGING OUT IN

MOVIE THEATERS AS A BASE --

USING THEM AS A BASE FOR MUCH

MORE SERIOUS CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

AND THEY LOVED HOLLYWOOD MOVIES.

AND KILLING IS A PROFOUNDLY

HUMAN ACT.

WE'RE REALLY THE ONLY SPECIES

THAT DOES IT, BUT IT'S ALSO A

TRAUMATIC ACT.

SO KILLERS NEED TO DISTANCE

THEMSELVES FROM WHAT THEY DO AND

ANWAR AND HIS FRIENDS, THE MAN

IN "THE ACT OF KILLING" THOSE

ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS, THEY

USED MOVIES TO DISTANCE

THEMSELVES.

THEY WOULD COME OUT OF THE MOVIE

THEATER INTOXICATED BY WHATEVER

THEY HAD JUST SEEN AND USED THAT

FEELING OF CINEMATIC -- THEIR

LOVE OF CINEMA TO DISTANCE

THEMSELVES FROM THE REALITY OF

WHAT THEY WERE DOING.

>> John: AND THE DISLOCATION

THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, THAT

IS WHAT IS INCREDIBLE.

WHEN THEY WERE REENACTING SCENES

-- THERE'S A MOMENT WHERE YOU'RE

SHOWING ANWAR CONGO, YOU'RE

SHOWING HIM TALK ABOUT THESE

HORRORS THAT HE'S INFLICTED AND

YOU WERE EXPECTING IT TO SINK IN

AT THAT POINT AND HE SAYS "JOSH,

WHAT I WOULD NEVER HAVE WORN

WHITE PANTS."

AND YOU THINK YOUR PANTS WEAR IS

REALLY NOT THE ISSUE HERE.

(LAUGHTER)

>> WELL, EXACTLY.

BUT THE THINK IS, ANWAR KNOWS

THAT.

BECAUSE IN THE -- THE VERY FIRST

TIME I FILMED ANWAR HE TAKES ME

TO A ROOF TOP WHERE HE KILLED

HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE,

SHOWS HOW HE DID IT, THEN SAYS

THAT HE IS A GOOD DANCER BECAUSE

EVER SINCE KILLING HE'S BEEN

GOING OUT DRINKING, TAKING DRUGS

AND DANCING.

AND HE STARTS SHOWING HOW HE'S A

GOOD DANCER.

HE DANCE IT IS CHA-CHA THAT ON

THE SPOT WHERE HE'S KILLED

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE AND TO

UNDERSTAND HOW HE CAN DO THIS I

SHOW HIM THAT FOOTAGE BACK AND

HE LOOKED PROFOUNDLY DISTURBED.

AND I'M SURE HE'S DISTURBED

ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED ON THAT

ROOF.

ABOUT THE KILLING ITSELF.

BUT INSTEAD OF SAYING THAT --

BECAUSE TO SAY THAT WOULD BE TO

ADMIT IT WAS WRONG, WHICH HE'S

NEVER BEEN FORCED TO DO.

INSTEAD HE SAYS "I SHOULD CHANGE

MY CLOTHES.

I SHOULD DYE MY HAIR, I SHOULD

ACT BETTER."

AND IN THAT SENSE HE IS -- HE IS

THE -- THE MOTOR, WHAT IS

FUELING THE PROCESS OF

REENACTMENT OF DRAMATIZATION

WHICH MAKES THE FILM MORE AND

MORE SURREAL UNTIL IT BECOMES A

KIND OF FEVER DREAM.

>> John: CAN YOU STICK AROUND

AND GO TO THE WEB?

IT'S TRULY ONE OF THE MOST

INCREDIBLE, A -FBGTING,

IMPACTING MOVIES I'VE EVER SEEN.

"THE ACT OF KILLING" IS IN THE

THEATERS NOW.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER.

(CHEERS AND

Loading...